Category Archives: Emotional Health

All Clear

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Happy Day! All clear cancer screening!

The feeling of walking into my oncologist’s office, sitting and waiting for results so far has not changed for me. It is hard, plain and simple. I often wonder if the feeling will ever change.

When I was waiting today, 01/14/2014, I was looking around the room with a different perspective - that of a survivor. It had me thinking about the fact that I always preach absolute positivity through your cancer journey. The truth is, sitting back and really thinking about it, I don’t know if I have expressed to my readers that it doesn’t always come natural to be positive during cancer. It is a fight to stay positive – just as fighting cancer is. It is not always easy, nothing is, but one thing I feel to be true is: positive thoughts equals positive results. Positive results look different to everyone. Your positive outcome may be an all clear, another persons may be fighting through a recurrence, and so on.  This is true in survivorship as well. Cancer doesn’t end when treatment ends. In my opinion, once you’ve had cancer you need to have a life long dedication to being a survivor, being healthy, being dedicated to your check ups, taking your meds, exercising, eating right, keeping stress levels low and maintaining a positive attitude.

Today was my 18 month check up, which is a milestone for my cancer - ovarian dysgerminoma. At this point 4 out of 5 recurrences happen twelve to eighteen months post-chemo. I am so, so, so happy to say that I am cancer free! I have been dedicated. I have been positive. And I have fought to stay healthy. It is so important to always fight. I have been so blessed to be in contact with floods of wonderful fighters and to all of you I say, it is an honor and privilege to be along with you on your journey. Fight to stay healthy and fight to stay positive in all areas of life. FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!

Goodbye Hair! See you Next Year!

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Loss of hair with chemotherapy

Anytime I read or watched anything about women and chemotherapy I always had one lasting thing on my mind, how traumatic it was for them to lose their hair. When I started chemotherapy I knew I would lose my hair but didn’t think much of it. I remember 10 years ago when my sister had cancer how helpless I felt when she lost her hair. She was 19 and at an age where it must have been so hard to deal with it. Nineteen is dating time, worry-about-what-you-look-like time. No matter who you are, that age is really hard in normal circumstances. Read more

Tell Me What it Was Like to be Told You Have Cancer

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Around the time of Gracie’s first birthday Ryan started making a film for the party including interviews of all her close family members. I have to say, thinking about my pending interview was very traumatic. I was the last person to do my interview because I kept putting it off. I knew my husband and I knew he was going to ask me what it was like being told I had cancer just after having Grace. I don’t think you can ever truly speak about what it is like being told you have cancer as a brand new mom. Mainly because it is an emotion that can’t be conveyed in words due to it being so powerful. Also it is SO hard to focus after the fact on that particular moment when you were told. All other things occurring after that news begin to cloud your judgment on what your thoughts were. Read more

Welcome to Holland- Emily Perl Kinsley

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A very dear friend of mine circulated this essay while I was sick and she was facing the reality of a second child diagnosed with CF. It was SO impactful and something I think everyone should read. It doesn’t just have to pertain to having a kid with disabilities.

Life isn’t always as planned but takes you in amazingly wonderful directions if you are open to looking for the good. I truly believe the way to face tough challenges is head on with an open heart and open mind. I will talk about my “Italy” after the essay. Read more

Cancer is not a Roadblock to your Dreams

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Questions. Questions. Questions.

Questions circling through my mind like a horse on a racetrack.

  1. How will I get back in shape after cancer?
  2. How will I be strong after cancer?
  3. How will I turn this experience into something good?
  4. How will I inspire others to go through cancer with strength and grace and come out a powerhouse?
  5. What have I always wanted to do but haven’t? (Many, many things! Haha! I’m a typical Pisces dreamer. Stay on track- focus on physical feats!)
  6. What will make me feel like I am okay again?
  7. Most importantly, how can I teach others cancer isn’t a roadblock to your life or dreams? Read more

Chemotherapy is Done – Now the Hard Part

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last day of chemo

I thought I would be so overjoyed upon completion of chemotherapy instead it was quite the opposite. After all when you go to chemo M-F 8-5 you can’t help but have it become part of your routine. More than that chemo had become my sense of security and I didn’t even realize that until I was done. What I didn’t prepare myself for was what I feel was the hardest part of my journey. Post chemo, post constant care.

On my last day of chemo I got a card from my husband and my mom along with many, many praises of support, happiness, and relief from a close watching family and friends on social media. I walked out feeling great, went to lunch with Ryan and Gracie and had a glass of wine!! I chose not to drink much during chemo because I thought it would be best for me and I had just gone 9 months without drinking. What’s a few more? This glass of wine was my celebration. Later that day we went to dinner with my mom and some family friends. It was a nice evening.

All seemed to be going well until later in the week when I went from feeling very positive to very disconnected, worried, and lost. I didn’t have these feelings while battling. Not once. I always felt like everything was going just as it should and I was under the best care I could ever ask for. I felt like the pilar of positivity and strength. What was this new feeling? Is this normal? Why do I feel lost? Why at the end when it is all over? Despite these feelings I tried to maintain positive lifestyle behavior in an effort to not let myself spiral out of control.

After several weeks trying to rationalize my thoughts I came up with a list of what I was feeling which really helped my healing:

  • I was worried that I was no longer under constant supervision. What if it came back?
  • My stomach hurts. Should I call the doctor? Maybe it’s just gas and I’m being dumb. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it is. Back and forth, back and forth.
  • Should I call my oncologist for all my problems?
  • I’m terrified of another pulmonary embolism. To the point it’s crippling. Am I sleeping too long, sitting too long, traveling too long?
  • I have spent all my time either in the hospital, being taken care of at home, or being taken care of at the treatment center. That isn’t the case now.
  • I was in my cycle of sickness. Everywhere I went was where I was sick. The people I was surrounded by were people I were sick with.

What to do? What to do? Well darn it!!!!! Conquer this list! I conquered cancer, I can conquer this.

Item 1: I was worried that I was no longer under constant supervision. What if it came back?

This is not a controllable. I need to learn what I can and can’t control. This was an awesome realization and has helped me in so many aspects of my life. To read more on this subject you can read my previous post, controlling the controllable.

Item 2: My stomach hurts. Should I call the doctor? Maybe it’s just gas and I’m being dumb. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it is. Back and forth, back and forth.

I quickly learned that my body was healing and I was going to feel aches and pains as I return to daily life. My strategy for not obsessing about every ached and pain in my stomach was to give it a day or two. If it was still bad and out of character I called the doctor. With a couple minor exceptions this always worked for me. Usually the pain went away and with that, the worry. I wasn’t going to die if I waited a day or two to see if it resolved itself. I did however tell my husband every ache and pain which in retrospect had to have been very hard on him. He never got upset with me for sharing and took all my complaints seriously which I am eternally grateful for. I think every survivor needs that support person to listen to their concern and take them seriously and not make them feel silly.

Item 3: Should I call my oncologist for all my problems?

I really struggled letting go of my oncologist. I still do. When you find a gem of a doctor it is hard to let them go and know they only handle what they handle. At my last major appointment I asked him what I should and should not be calling him for. He was very kind and explained that I should call him regarding anything to do with issues in the area he treated. It seemed like common sense to me but every time I had something I thought was related to the treatment I had I felt compelled to call him. Like my itching and etc. I still sometimes call his office with a problem I am having and the nurse always kindly reroutes me to my family physician. I’m getting better at resisting the urge to call the oncologist which makes me feel like I am learning to let go.

Item 4: I’m terrified of another pulmonary embolism. To the point was crippling. Was I sleeping too long, sitting too long, traveling too long, crossing my legs too long?

Major need to pull the reigns in on this line item! First of all, this is uncontrollable. Secondly, I got a pulmonary embolism because I had a major surgery and cancer. I can control this like I can control the weather. I can’t. I can’t control if my cancer comes back and I can’t control this. I needed to plunge forward and live.

Item 5: I have spent all my time either in the hospital, being taken care of at home, or being taken care of at the treatment center. That isn’t the case now and I have a newborn.

I have never been one to let others take care of me. I am pretty independent in that way. It was very hard for me to let go and be taken care of. Once I did it was a very nice feeling and I could rely on it. I needed the help. When chemo ended I ended up at home with a newborn and a husband that had to return to normal too. I was worried I couldn’t do it. I was worried that I wasn’t strong enough and I was also pretty fatigued by the end of my treatments. To conquer this I started taking it day by day rather than looking at weeks and months at a time. The things I couldn’t do because I was plunging all of my energy into Gracie during the day I left for Ryan to assist with when he was done with his work day. I even made a list of things that needed to be done that I needed help with and began to ask family to come over and assist. This was very helpful in my adjustment period. I think it is important to explain to your support system that even though you are done, you still need them. Keep them on stand by and don’t feel guilty about it. I know you may think they helped you for months and months and it’s hard to ask for more but you can. This is your time to heal.

Item 6: I was in my cycle of sickness. Everywhere I went was where I was sick. The people I was surrounded by were people I were sick with.

I needed to break my cycle post chemo. I needed to do something different somewhere new. If you are healthy enough I highly suggest taking a trip somewhere by yourself to see friends or just get away post chemo. I chose to take Gracie on a little trip to see friends in Canada. I felt like I had some one-on-one mommy daughter time I needed to steal back :). I used our travel time to bond, be silly, laugh and dance without anybody else being there to monitor. Gracie was by my side the whole way but I never got those precious mommy daughter moments alone with her that I so desperately wanted as a first time mom. This was my chance. We travelled, had a blast then saw some awesome friends for some silliness and much needed relaxation away from home and the cycle. I needed this time as much as I needed chemo to make sure I was okay. It broke my cycle and I came back myself again. My “non-sick” self.

I firmly believe all the feelings I was having post chemotherapy were completely normal. I just didn’t talk to anybody before I went through the phase to be prepared. I wish I would have. Talking to survivors now I realize many have this time period post chemo that they too didn’t know what to do with. I hope this entry provides comfort to anyone starting post chemo life to know that they are not alone in how they are feeling. If I would have known these feelings were normal I really believe it would have been an easier time and I would have reached out and talked to someone who had gone through it.

Stay well mentally and physically friends. My thoughts and prayers are always with anyone in this fight.

Tell a GOOD Story

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another trip

Writing from Bar Harbor, ME today friends. Gracie and I are on a little trip visiting Ryan’s family and our friends. It is so nice to be healthy enough to take a trip! We are having a wonderful time and counting our blessings as always but I am definitely missing my hubby. :)

ON TO THE IMPORTANT STUFF!

In my experience telling someone you have cancer is like opening Pandora’s box. People suddenly feel like they should tell you every horrific story of cancer they have ever heard. Perhaps it is an ever-present uncomfortable feeling people get when you tell them you have cancer or perhaps it is just our culture to be relatively negative. Either way, it is important to me to help change the culture of cancer talk. Every story has some good in it. Find the good. Find a way to inspire and give hope to someone fighting this battle.

If you are a survivor, fighter, family member or caregiver with a good story of hope and inspiration I would love for you to share your story in the comments section of this post. It’s always nice to read a good story when you are sick. It is a good way to counteract any crazy stories you may hear along your journey. Please make this post a stomping ground of positivity. We have plenty of fighters reading this blog that would LOVE to hear a good story.

Every day is a blessing. There is always a way to be positive. Positive attitude, positive results.

Have fun writing my endlessly strong friends.

As a side note here are my golden rules of talking to a cancer patient or a mom with cancer:

        1. Please DO NOT tell a cancer patient a list of everyone you have known that has died of cancer.

2. Please DO NOT say, “Yeah, I know someone that got through cancer with flying colors and is back in chemotherapy again and almost dead”.

3. Please DO NOT tell a cancer patient all the horrible things that have happened to your friends with cancer.

4. Please DO NOT tell a new mom with cancer about all the kids you know that moms have died of cancer.

5. Please DO NOT say “Well, at least you can say you’ve lived.”.

6. Please DO, DO, DO, tell a cancer patient a GOOD story, a story of hope and promise. We know all the horrible things cancer can bring. Tell something to lift us up. Tell something inspiring. Tell something hopeful.

7. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. -Thumper

Carrot, Egg, and Coffee

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cec

My mom sent me this story today and I thought it was very fitting to share here. Coffee has always been a passion of mine. It’s given me my most favorite job of all time, my husband, and my best girlfriend. Coffee has been good to me. It’s only fitting that I would consider myself the coffee bean. Life is beautiful! Make the most of your hurdles. Enjoy the read! :)

Carrot, Egg, and Coffee…You will never look at a cup of coffee the same way again…

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see. “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.

The daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?” Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity — boiling water. Each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became
hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?”

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial
hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy.

The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.
The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can’t go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.

-author unknown

Support Group? Not for me. Or is it? Or isn’t it?

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One question that nagged at me on a daily basis was to “support up” or not. What do I mean by “support up”? Going to a support group, of course (I’ve been watching too much, “How I Met Your Mother”, “Suit up!”). I was always pretty happy and positive throughout my cancer journey and I feared support groups because pretty much everyone I have encountered had the worst attitude toward battling cancer. My opinion has always been misery feeds misery.

One day I wrote down the number and made the decision to go and be a positive beam of light in darkness. As I borded the elevator down to the car I had Grace in her stroller, my hair was a complete mess, pants falling off of me because I opted to continue to wear my pregnancy pants so my incision wasn’t rubbed, PICC line wire flopping everywhere and a ratty old sweatshirt. Basically I was a complete mess but I had a huge smile on my face. A woman borded the elevator with me and said “It’s not funny.” My reply was “What’s not funny?” She proceeded to tell me that cancer isn’t funny and I shouldn’t be smiling. At that point I realized that everyone deals with cancer differently and perhaps I shouldn’t show up to a support group expecting to be a beam of light. Instead I would try to be a beam of light through a blog where others can choose whether or not they would like to hear my journey.